Well, it was another enjoyable weekend of winter birding. Yesterday was a home run gulling at the Hudson River, then this morning I did a quick cruise around the black dirt where I located a remarkable 8 LAPLAND LONGSPURS. I found 2 off of Route 12 in New Hampton, and an additional 6 on Ridgebury Road in Slate Hill. From there I headed over to the Bashakill to check to see if the large flock of Snow Buntings were still present. They were, and they were quite accommodating. I ran into Karen Miller while I was there and we located a distant Rough-legged Hawk, off of Haven Road; I don’t think they get them there very often. From there I called it a day a little on the early side, but it was a good morning.
Saturday and Sunday were both gorgeous days – mostly sunny, cold, crisp, with a brisk wind out of the north. It was great to just be out and about after a week staring at my work computer. On Saturday I went up to Sullivan County to try for the Northern Shrike near Liberty NY; unfortunately I had no luck. That’s my third time trying for that bird, and I’m sort of feeling like three strikes and you’re out. The trip was still worth it though, I had a single COMMON REDPOLL and a brief look at three EVENING GROSBEAKS, my first of the winter. In the afternoon I went to the Newburgh Waterfront, where I located a first winter ICELAND GULL.
On Sunday morning I walked the Winding Waters trail at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. It was a beautiful, freezing cold walk, and I enjoyed it immensely. The highlight was a single COMMON REDPOLL, my first in Orange County this winter. In the early afternoon, Bruce Nott reported a GLAUCOUS GULL at the Newburgh Waterfront. I ran for the bird; when I arrived we actually located a second bird for two GLGUs! Huge thanks to Bruce as always. It was a good weekend, and I even got a few shots to share, which makes me happy.
I headed back up to Sullivan County this morning to try once again for the Northern Shrike that has been seen near Liberty, NY. My second target species was Common Redpoll which have also been reported recently in the same area. I spent the morning traveling the area and scanning for birds, but unfortunately came up empty on both counts. I was enjoying being in the area; it was a beautiful winter morning (sort of) and I was just happy to be out, so flipped open my copy of A Birding Guide to Sullivan County NY and followed the directions over to the Beechwoods Area, which is between Hortonville and Jeffersonville.
The Beechwoods Area proved to be more productive. Although most were the usuals, there were enough birds around to make it interesting. I had many Black-capped Chickadees, they were definitely the bird of the day. I also had six Bald Eagle sitings – I’m not sure how many individual birds but there were at least two that I saw at the same time. The bird of the day, however, was a single COMMON REDPOLL on Buddenhagen Road. I spent loads of time with the bird as it was very accommodating, but the light wasn’t in my favor so I was working for photos. Some days you just pick the right thing to do – by that I mean it’s really what you’re in the mood for. Today was one of those days for me.
I usually like to get my posts out in timely fashion, but I’ve had some problems with my computer and then when I sorted it out, it just took ages to get through all my photos and edit them. So, this post is from Sunday evening.
Sunday afternoon I was home for the day, done birding, relaxing. Then I read a post by Bashakill Birder and birding bud John Haas. He kayaked at Morningside Park, as he does most days this time of the year; he’d had a number of good birds there recently and they all were continuing. What got my attention was his excellent photo of a fabulous-looking American Golden-Plover.
With that, I got up off the sofa and loaded the kayak onto my car! What followed was a gorgeous night of paddling around the islands at Morningside Park with some very accommodating shorebirds. I’ve written about it before, but it is an incredible experience; it’s as if they don’t even know you are there. At one point, I had “docked” my kayak against one of the islands and I was just relaxing and watching some Least Sandpipers. They worked their way around island, towards me until they were close enough that I could reach out and touch them if I wanted! I sat motionless and just enjoyed their company. What a great evening, I have to thank John for his inspiration, it certainly beats sitting on the sofa watching the tube.
I rocketed out of work last night and took the long way home, winding slowly through Harriman State Park and eventually entering the area of Sterling Forest State Park. I made a quick stop Indian Kill Reservoir where I didn’t have anything out of the ordinary, but there was a young Bald Eagle trying to terrorize a small raft of Common Mergansers, but they seemed unfazed. From there, I headed to Wickham Lake to follow up on a tip that there were Lesser and Greater Scaup, as well as American Woodcock.
BREAKING NEWS: As I was typing this post, I received a call from John Haas; he let me know that Gail Benson and Tom Burke had located a EURASIAN WIGEON at the Bashakill main boat launch. I ran for the bird and it was still present. Distant, but still present (I tried for documentary photos without great success, see the bottom of this post). Many birders ran for the bird; it was strange to see a line of birders with scopes with approximately 6′ between them, practicing social distancing during this uncertain time of the Corona Virus.
Back to Friday evening. At Wickham Lake there was a decent sized raft of birds, consisting of mostly Ring-necked Ducks and approximately 20 scaup. I thought I had maybe 6 Greater and the rest Lesser, but I just couldn’t be sure so I reported them all as Lesser/Greater. The highlight of the night, however, was when the American Woodcocks started peenting and displaying. It was quite dark at this point, so photos were not an option, but I had several woodcocks land as close as 35 feet away, which was a fabulous look in my binoculars.
On Saturday morning, I headed to Sullivan County to try for the very early PECTORAL SANDPIPER at Fireman’s Park on Shore Road in White Sulphur Springs that was found by Renee Davis a few days earlier. I didn’t have any luck with the Pec, even with Renee stopping by and giving me the lay of the land. But, the morning was a good one. The marsh was active with plenty of birds and I was able to get some decent photos. The highlight for me was a nice looking Red-shouldered Hawk that made its way over the marsh. I also went to Swan Lake, where I had mostly the usuals plus 2 Lesser Scaup.
My final stop (before heading out again for the EURASIAN WIGEON), was at the duck blind at the Bashakill. John Haas texted me to let me know there was Pied-billed Grebe and Blue-winged Teal present. I immediately found one, and then two Pied-billed Grebes. John joined me, and eventually, after searching for a little while, we located first the drake, and then both the male and female when a Bald Eagle flushed all the ducks. Huge thanks to John for all the intel today, it makes a difference in a day of birding.
Since I have Ruffed Grouse on the brain this weekend, I headed out early this morning to the only other location where I’ve seen the bird: Hickok Brook Multiple Use Area in Sullivan County. I didn’t have any luck with RUGR, (I knew I’d have to get lucky to come across one), but I was happy to get back to a spot that I’d only been to one other time, two years ago. It was a sunny, cool morning with a little bit of a breeze blowing. I took a nice, long, comfortable walk; the trails are mostly wide open and flat which makes for some good birding conditions. It was a birdy morning and I had 35 species on my list, with most birds being heard and not seen. I remembered having a similar experience last time I was there, but really, to me it’s pretty normal for summertime birding. Highlights for me were mostly raptors, including my second Barred Owl of the weekend, this one was heard but not seen. I also had a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks calling and also a pair of Broad-winged Hawks – I heard them first and then watched one shoot through the woods in the distance. I know that I missed some birds out there today – it’s hard to bird by ear for me when I’m a little bit outside of Orange County as I’m not entirely sure which birds to expect. I decided to not worry about it too much and just enjoyed a nice walk in the woods.
I was scheduled to volunteer for the Bashakill Area Association’s Nature Watch program, which I’ve participated in for several years on and off and written about here on the blog a couple of times; click here and here to find out more. I got up early to do hit some local spots before heading to the Bashakill; on my way to Glenmere Lake I spotted a Coyote in a field so I pulled over and was lucky enough to get some decent (if noisy) shots. Glenmere was mostly uneventful, although I did have my first Black-throated Green warblers of the season. I also stopped at Wickham Lake, just to check the water quickly and found 6 distantRuddy Ducks all tucked in on the rainy lake.
I met up with Karen Miller at Haven Road at the Bashakill. We found out shortly after our arrival that the watch was to be cancelled due to the rain. So, we decided to bird the Bash. We hit four locations and we did pretty well. Highlights included several First of Season birds for me: Common Gallinule, Broad-winged Hawk, Eastern Kingbird, Yellow-throated Vireo, Blue-headed Vireo, Bank Swallow, Gray Catbird, and Black-throated Blue Warbler. Other good birds included Black-and-white Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Field Sparrow, and of course, several Bald Eagles. It was a good and productive morning and my list totaled 38 species.
Earlier this week I took an opportunity to try for better shots of the Middletown YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS; I got lucky and both birds were present and active.
My main goal today was to follow up on the swan the John Haas located yesterday at Rondout Reservoir. For just over 24 hours, there was some uncertainty regarding which species of swan it was, but just this afternoon the bird was confirmed as a TRUMPETER SWAN by Kevin McGowan at Cornell University, after reviewing photos by John and Bruce Nott. This is only the second record of the species in Sullivan County. John has written 3 posts on his blog about the bird – check it out here.
I ran for the bird this morning and fortunately it was still present. Karen Miller arrived right after me, and we both set up our scopes and enjoyed viewing the bird. My initial thoughts on the bird was that it looked good for trumpeter for two main reasons – 1. The bill shape and size looked good to me – it was large and fairly straight and 2. The connection of the bill to the eye seemed substantial enough. But, one field mark that wasn’t present was the “V” shape where the bill meets the forehead (in this bird it was more like a “U”). According to John’s blog, Kevin McGowan explained that variability in individual birds does not make this a reliable fieldmark for final identification. If you are interested in learning more about swan identification, have had a couple of hard lessons on swan identification that I have blogged about: one at Montezuma NWR and one at Wallkill River NWR.
I also did a little local birding today. Prior to running for the TRSW, I had a nice stop at Glenmere Lake, where I had 8 species of waterfowl: Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Wood Duck, and American Black Duck. Kathy Ashman was there after me, and she also had a COMMON GOLDENEYE. I’m not sure how I missed that bird! In the early afternoon I ran around the black dirt for a while. I went through probably 1,500 Canada Geese in 2 locations but did not come up with anything. I got lucky with a beautiful ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK that flew right over me at Liberty Marsh. Oh, and I started the day, right around sunrise, with a coyote in a field not too far from my house. Great day!
My plan for the day was to head up to Sullivan County to see if I could do any good with waterfowl at Rondout Reservoir. Before heading up north, I made an early stop at Glenmere Lake and met up with Kathy Ashman again. She had located 2 GREATER SCAUP and relocated the single LESSER SCAUP. I found the GRSCs easily enough, but never did locate the LESC.
From there, I headed to Rondout Reservoir. John Haas and Karen Miller have recently reported some good waterfowl there; I thought it would be fun to head up that way and see how I could do. It was a worthwhile stop as I had 8 species of waterfowl. The highlight for me was my first COMMON GOLDENEYES of the year. There were 9 present and they were actively feeding and displaying in the furthest corner of open water along with several Hooded Mergansers and 3 female Buffleheads. I would have loved to get some photos, but the birds were just too distant.
I then headed towards Liberty, to visit the feeder stations in hopes of finding Evening Grosbeaks and any other interesting birds. I got lucky and had 12 EVGRs at the Woodard Road feeders and an additional 30 or so at the Smith Road feeders. At Smith Road, it was tough to get an accurate count, as the birds were here and there and coming and going; 30 is a conservative estimation. I tooled around the Liberty area a bit, but ended up heading home without any additional notable birds.
This morning I headed up to Sullivan County. All week John Haas and others had been reporting some really good birds in the Liberty area of SC. I was especially ready for some good birding after a pretty disappointing Saturday birding locally in Orange County. The day was saved by a single bird – a PINE SISKIN at Linda Scrima’s feeding station – thanks so much Linda!
I connected early with John and he met me at Rayano’s feeder station, where I was able to briefly get on a single EVENING GROSBEAK. It was my lifer EVGR, so I was pretty pumped (#415). I snapped a few distant, documentary shots before the bird flushed. And then, while we waited hoping the bird would return, Karen Miller called John to report that she had COMMON REDPOLLS on Clements Road. We raced over (and when I say raced, I mean it – I didn’t know the way and I was trying to keep up with John, who was on a mission! Let’s just say I’m glad I recently got new tires.). Fortunately the birds were still present. We had great looks and I tried for pics but they were just a bit out of range for good ones.
Afterwards, I headed back to Rayano’s, hoping for a better look and maybe some photos of the grosbeaks. Karen joined me, as did a trio of birders from Rockland County as well as Ken McDermott and Lisa O’Gorman. We all waited for a good while and I was the first to leave. I figured I’d check the feeders at Woodard Road before heading back, and I’m glad I did. When I arrived there were nearly a dozen EVENING GROSBEAKS at the feeder station. I put out the word and then took photos. The whole crew from Rayano’s joined me, but unfortunately the birds flushed just as they pulled up. I couldn’t believe it! I waited a little while, but the birds did not seem like they were coming back any time soon so I left. Ken notified me later that 16 EVGRs showed up not too long after I left and everyone got them. Excellent day of birding!